“Before I Fall” By Lauren Oliver

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Samantha Kingston is a popular senior with lots of friends and a great boyfriend. She enjoys life and is constantly partying. In fact, February 12th (“Cupid Day”) is one of her favorite times of the year. That is until she dies in a car accident on “Cupid Day.” However, she doesn’t really actually die. Instead, she wakes up the next morning and the morning after that, reliving “Cupid Day” over and over again. Samantha realizes that small decision or actions can change the whole day for her. She begins to find her voice and discover who she really wants to be. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver was one of the most suspenseful books I have ever read. Although it might’ve gotten frustrating, I was determined to finish the book to see what was going to happen to Samantha. I recommend this book to anyone interested in Young Adult books with a great sense of patience. 

Check this book out or put it on hold


-Vanessa F.

“The Madman’s Daughter” by Megan Shepherd

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When Juliet Moreau learns that her father, a scientist who has been banished from London after charges of performing unethical experiments, is alive and carrying on his work on a remote island in the South Pacific, she sets off to join him. It is not, however, the happy reunion she would have liked. Her father’s work is still shrouded in mystery and the island is populated by many unusual inhabitants. After a series of violent attacks on the residents of the island, Juliet becomes deeply suspicious of the exact nature of her father’s experiments.

Inspired by H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Madman’s Daughter has an excellent gothic-horror atmosphere. In addition, Shepherd stays true to the feel of early works of science fiction such as Wells’ novels and even Frankenstein. Although the book takes place at the end of the 19th century and the experiments described are quite fantastical, the discussion of ethics versus scientific progress is still incredibly relevant.

It was interesting to try to piece together what is actually happening on the island, and there are several truly scary moments in the novel. The Madman’s Daughter does feature the typical YA love triangle; Juliet tries to choose between her lifelong friend Montgomery, and Edward, a castaway she encounters on the way to the island. This was not my favorite aspect of the story, but overall it did not detract too much from the true strength of the novel: Shepherd’s skill in constructing a suspenseful gothic mystery. The ending will definitely leave the reader eager to begin the sequels, Her Dark Curiosity, and Her Cold Legacy, which are just as compelling.

-Check out this book or put it on hold.

–Caitlin C.

“The Sin Eater’s Daughter” by Melinda Salisbury

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“The Sin Eater’s Daughter” easily features one of the most engaging premises of any Young Adult book I have looked at this year.  Twylla works at the order of the Queen, regarded as the embodiment of a deity.  The catch: she can kill a man with a single touch.  Thus, while revered, she is deeply feared and destined to live a life of isolation and guilt as the royal executioner until she marries her betrothed, the Prince.  When she strikes up a close friendship with her new guard, Leif, she begins to question her place at court and the brutality of the Queen’s rule.

Twylla is a compelling main character and I enjoyed seeing her progress from a victim of the atrocities she is forced to carry out at the Queen’s order, and being regarded almost on the same level as a deity at court, to beginning to find out some surprising truths about her life.  The mythology of Twylla’s world is also very interesting; some kingdoms embrace science and alchemy, while her kingdom worships a pantheon of gods with similarities to ancient Egyptian mythology.

I’ll admit that as I finished “The Sin Eater’s Daughter” I was undecided as to whether I considered it a three- or four-star book.  The ending seemed too rushed, and featured a twist that seemed to veer towards melodrama.  Twylla’s strength in the end, however, along with Salisbury’s restraint in not giving us too many “happy ending” clichés, elevated my opinion of “The Sin Eater’s Daughter,” and I would definitely read the sequel.

Check this book out or put it on hold.

-Caitlin Connelly

“Cruel Beauty” by Rosamund Hodge

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In this twist on the classic fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast,” Nyx has been raised her whole life knowing that it is her destiny to marry the Dark Lord, the evil ruler of her kingdom. On her seventeenth birthday Nyx marries Ignifex with one mission, kill him and free Arcadia, even though she will likely die in the process. Of course, like in “Beauty and the Beast,” things aren’t quite so straightforward once Nyx gets to know her mysterious husband. She is intrigued by and drawn to Ignifex and her commitment to what she has been tasked to do begins to waver.

Hodge has created a unique world in her novel. Nyx’s kingdom is completely cut off from the outside world, thanks to the Dark Lord, and is plagued by demons. The world of Cruel Beauty combines elements of both Greek and Roman mythology. Hodge’s writing is beautiful and I could easily picture the kingdom of Arcadia and Ignifex’s constantly changing mansion as Nyx searches for a way to fulfill her mission. Hodge’s detailed descriptions of setting and of Nyx, a strong yet imperfect heroine, were two of my favorite elements of this book.

For lovers of fairy tale retellings and fantasy, Cruel Beauty will not disappoint. My only quibble is that the ending felt a little rushed, after a lot of build up. But overall, Cruel Beauty is one of my favorite books of 2014, and I will definitely read Hodge’s next novel Crimson Bound.

Check this book out or put it on hold.
-Caitlin Connelly

“Season of the Witch” by Mariah Fredericks

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I picked up “Season of the Witch” by Mariah Fredericks totally at random. The title sounded interesting and I was looking for something to get me in the Halloween mood. This book turned out to be so much more than that.

Reading this book was like taking all the best “junk food” plots (revenge, mean girls, murder?, witchcraft?!), mixing them all together, and somehow ending up with a gourmet meal. It sounds like it should be cheesy, but it’s just wicked awesome. Teen girl, Toni, is coming back to school after a rough summer of breakups, makeouts and heartbreak. Things get real right away when  Queen of Mean, Chloe vows revenge. Once the action starts you cannot look away. Every page I read made me want to read the next one even more. The only help Toni is going to get seems to come from a strange source–her best friend’s cousin, the suddenly goth Cassandra. But what kind of help is she offering , exactly?

I love that many things are left ambiguous at times without it feeling like a cop-out.

***SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS***
Is witchcraft real? Why did *spoilers* die? Who really is to blame?
*** END SPOILERS END SPOILERS END SPOILERS****

It doesn’t feel to this reader that the author didn’t bother to come up with answers to these questions, but instead you feel the struggles as Toni tries to comes to terms with all these questions and more in her own way.

If you love real-life high school stories full of over-the-top reality TV drama I’m pretty sure you will like this book, but if you love well-written emotional books about realistic characters and the adversity they overcome (or fail to) then I *know* you will definitely love this book.

Pick up a copy of this worthy Halloween Read, right away!

Check this book out or put it on hold.

-Aramis Troche

“Daughter of Smoke and Bone” by Laini Taylor

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Karou spends half her time living as a girl attending art school in Prague, drawing fanciful creatures, hanging out with her friends and avoiding a conniving ex-boyfriend. What her friends don’t realize is that the creatures she draws and the stories she “makes up” about them are all true — and that these creatures are the closest things she has to a family. When she’s not pretending to be an ordinary human, she spends her time working for a minotaur-like creature who can magically send her all over the world collecting, of all things, teeth.

Karou realizes that something is going on when people with super-human strength begin following her wherever she goes, burning handprints into the doorways she uses to travel from place to place. And when the doorway that led her to her family is destroyed, she will do anything to find them again — even confront her dangerous stalkers in battle.

This book is amazing. Even if you have given up on paranormal romance, even if you are tired of angel/demon stories, please don’t pass this one up. Incredible world-building, wonderfully drawn characters, beautiful romance, lots of humor, lots of passages that will take your breath away with surprise. This book is such a pleasure to read, I can’t recommend it enough.

Check this book out or put it on hold.

–Amanda Coppedge Bosky

“Tiger Moon” by Antonia Michaelis

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A wealthy rajah chooses Raka to be his newest bride. Though she does not wish to go, her father arranges the marriage and sends his daughter off to the rajah’s palatial estate. Despite numerous escape attempts, she remains imprisoned within his walls. Lalit, a young man who works for the rajah, asks Raka why she tries to escape and she tells him it is because she is not a virgin, and she knows the rajah will have her killed when he discovers this.

While Raka waits for her imminent death, she tells Lalit the story of a thief named Farhad, who is chosen by the god Krishna to save his daughter from the clutches of a demon king. Farhad, with the help of his magical white tiger, travels across the desert and slowly evolves from a self-serving thief into a compassionate and brave hero. As the end of Farhad’s story approaches, so does the end of Raka’s–until the transcendent power of her magical tale takes over.

This masterfully-written novel, translated beautifully from German by Anthea Bell, utterly captivated me. I felt transported to India, spellbound by the story, sometimes surprised to return to reality when I looked away from the pages. Readers who enjoy sweeping fantasy or fairy tale-inspired novels will love this book.

Check this book out or put it on hold.

–Amanda Coppedge Bosky